Let the sea roar
Parishioner Emilie Oyen has been reading Isaiah. She says she has been "pulverized" by that reading - Isaiah is a rollercoaster ride of emotions. The early chapters mix images of the peaceable kingdom with imprecations against Israel's faithlessness and thunderings of doom - chapters 1-39 were written before and perhaps into the period of the Babylonian Exile. The middle chapters, 4--56, were written during the exile, when Isaiah (a second writer, known as Second Isaiah) was largely a harbinger of hope, of the promise that God had not forgotten his people and would rescue them. And the final chapters, written by either the same Second Isaiah or even a Third, tell of the triumphant return home: Arise, shine, for your light has come! Here Emilie offers an array of impressionistic sketches that align the prophet's varying moods and modes with her own life. How many quotations can you find woven into the tapestry she creates?
- The Rev. Craig Townsend, Vicar
Sing to the LORD a new song,
his praise from the end of the earth!
Let the sea roar and all that fills it,
the coastlands and their inhabitants.
Let the desert and its cities lift up their voice,
the villages that Kedar inhabits;
let the inhabitants of Sela sing for joy,
let them shout from the top of the mountains.
Let them give glory to the LORD,
and declare his praise in the coastlands.
The LORD goes forth like a mighty man,
like a man of war he stirs up his fury;
he cries out, he shouts aloud,
he shows himself mighty against his foes.
I. Lovers of Pleasures
Every Saturday morning down at Fuller’s Field thirteen boys come together like a flock of tentative sheep. They throw, catch, throw catch until the baseball game starts and after a few innings they’ve already lost count of the score. One kid waves to his mom in the bleachers. One kid hugs his little sister when she toddles out onto the field. One kid in the outfield runs around in circles holding his arms up and singing wildly up to the birds. If I did that they would haul me off to an asylum, I think to myself. What is the age when “exuberant” becomes “insane,” I wonder? And a fly ball goes to first he’s got it he’s got it Yes! He’s out! The boys skip jump twirl off the field, their gloves dangle from their hands like sapphires.
The ballpark is vast and luscious green. Many games are happening around the field. The sky is really blue today and it’s scorching hot. A river runs by us. I read in the bleachers and miss my son at bat as I write all this down on the back of an envelope. The bases are loaded and the next batter strikes out. No one cares. The batter skips back to the bench. The dads pat him on the back. The dads are patient and kind; men of rank---Skadden JPMorgan Citibank---skillful magicians and experts in charms. They have toiled the fields all of their lives. Look at their ruby-encased baby strollers parked by the bleachers, burdened with baby bags and milk bottles, bracelets and scarfs, armlets, sashes, perfume boxes, cloaks, handbags, linen garments and veils.
Our land is filled with horses. There is no end to our chariots.
We are lovers of pleasures.
II. My Prophet
Isaiah, my prophet, my sinner, my burnt heart: you drain me. Since the night I saw you standing on the stairs---your robes, your unclean lips---I’ve died for you. You saw it all in that first moment, didn’t you? You wrote it down in blood on the desert walls. You touched my mouth, I laid your foundations with sapphires. I was a poet once too, you know, gazing from wolf eyes, watching the Mexican dishwashers play soccer from my 4am window while the crack addicts and transvestites worked across the hall. But soon the cities of my life were laid waste, the land was desolate and the houses empty. All my sleep fled, I cried for help until morning. Afflicted, storm-tossed, not comforted---from day to night thou dost bring me to an end.
I should have been more kind, lamented the old poet.
Enlarge the place of your tent and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out.
III. Milk & Honey
I’m no visionary but I will tell you this--- you do not have to be afraid anymore. In Central Park, new trees have replaced those felled by the river’s wings. The unclaimed knapsack by the men’s room in Penn Station is just a public art project. Cell phones do not cause cancer, nor do factories or Diet Coke. Nothing causes cancer. There is no cancer nor fires nor floods. The floods have abated. Once, the river rose and swept and overflowed and passed on and its wings filled the breadth of the land. But today, highways are corridors of moss, oak, cedar, vine and persimmon. Buffalo and honey bees roam unfettered across the nation. Cucumber fields and wild grapes adorn the roofs of city skyscrapers. Even the terrorists have risen from their suicide caves to sell ice cream and coloring books to children in the streets. And Sean Mullen, 39, Warrant Officer, Army; Second Battalion, 5th Special Forces did not die in Afghanistan as reported last week. He is alive and well in Dover, Delaware. He has beaten his sword into a ploughshare. He is having milk and honey and coffee for breakfast with his children.
Sometimes I get angry with the doctors.
Fear not for I am your God.
I’m disappointed and in denial.
Let them make peace with me.
But of course I am depressed most of the time.
Be broken. Be dismayed---for God is with us. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.
IV. The Way of the Lord
Long ago, princes traveling through eastern deserts and pathless wilderness had the way prepared for them. Heralds set out before them; hindrances were removed. Perhaps not unlike the way that I prepare for my children every day? The way I hold their hands across the street, bend down to tie their shoe, bring them plates of honey and couscous for dinner. A cake of figs. I wipe their mouths. I sing to them. I level mountains and uneven ground. I lift up valleys and make hills low… In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
V. Sing to the Lord a New Song
It’s almost summer. The days are long and endless. The children last forever It’s been a year and we are breaking down. My country lies desolate---everyone loves a bribe. Sons are not obedient. An empty wind turns over a still cucumber field. But one day the people who walk in darkness will see a great light. Wait until morning. Come, let us reason together.
I am so lazy. I lament, and moan like a dove. I have rolled up my life. But this is a New Song, and you are here now. Please don’t go. Let the streams overflow. Let the rain fall. Let the horses of your childhood canter. Let the trees speak, let the constellations sing. Let the seas roar. Let the cities lift up their voice.
Let the inhabitants sing.
Let us sing wildly up to the birds.
- Emilie Oyen